This has Thanksgiving written all over it!

23 Nov

When I was growing up, my mom would make acorn squash stuffed with Italian sausage and onions and seasonings. Delicious! As I was gathering my recipes for this month of vegan Thanksgiving foods, I was struggling to figure out what would be my main dish (this is my first Thanksgiving without turkey, you know). For some reason, I thought of that stuffed squash. As I pictured it in my head, I knew it would make a beautiful and substantial centerpiece for a Thanksgiving dinner plate.

Since I don’t eat meat anymore, the next thing I had to figure out was what to stuff it with. For the past, oh, I don’t know…6 or 8 years, I’ve been making this fabulous stuffing I found in Parade magazine a long time ago. The original recipe has toasted bread cubes, Italian turkey sausage, red onions, celery, dried fruit, tart apples and herbs and spices such as sage and thyme. I always baked the mixture in a large baking dish, rather than in the turkey, so it doesn’t get soggy. It’s so good, I decided to veganize it and make it gluten free. (If you are not on a gluten-free diet, you can make this with regular bread that has a dense texture.)

For dinner tonight, I made it as a test-run and piled it into acorn squash halves. It came out perfectly! Jason and my two older kids said it tasted the same as the original. Logan, who’s only six, couldn’t remember it from last year, but he enjoyed picking out the fruit and sausage!

This is a pretty easy recipe, but it comes out fragrant and jam-packed with flavor. I thought about trying it with homemade vegan cornbread but the weekend got away from me and I ended up using store-bought gluten-free bread slices. The best part of this recipe is that you can completely prep this two days in advance. Toast the bread cubes and store them in a sealed container or zip bag. Store the cooked sausage/veggie/fruit mixture in an airtight container in the fridge. On Thanksgiving morning, simply mix it all together with the broth then finish out the recipe. Easy breezy!

Harvest Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash
serves 8

4 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil + additional
1/2 pound meat-free Italian sausage, crumbled or diced small
1 cup chopped red onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
3 cups cubed bread (gluten free or other dense bread), lightly toasted in the oven
1 small Granny Smith apple, diced
1/4 cup dried mixed berries
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup vegetable broth (Imagine No Chicken Broth)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the outside of the acorn squash and pat dry. Place them in the middle of oven and roast for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While squash are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the sausage then remove to a large bowl. Add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and sage and cook over medium heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add to the sausage along with the apple and dried fruits. Toss well. Stir in the toasted bread cubes and drizzle the broth over the mixture to moisten as desired. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice the acorn squash in half lengthwise (through the stem end) and scoop out the seeds and stringy part. Place cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill each half with stuffing, dividing evenly between the 8 halves.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until squash is tender and stuffing is lightly browned. (If you can’t imagine Thanksgiving without gravy, make some with vegetable broth and drizzle it on top.)

Enjoy!

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