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WIC Kitchen: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Try quinoa stuffed acorn squash for a cozy autumn comfort recipe

By Natalie Meriwether

It’s officially the heart of the fall, and we know everyone is excited for pumpkin patches and Halloween.

Here in the WIC Kitchen, the most exciting part of the season is new comfort recipes and dishes.

This month, we’re trying out a healthy and delicious recipe using the winter vegetable acorn squash. This dish is made with several other nutritious ingredients, including quinoa, spinach and a little kick from a habanero pepper.

Other fruits and vegetables that are  in season include apples, cranberries, beets, figs, Brussels sprouts and, of course, pumpkins.

Acorn squash is a beautiful starchy vegetable that adds a sweet element to a dish. Even though acorn squash is relatively low in calories (115 per cup), it is very nutrient-dense. The main nutrients found in acorn squash are fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, pyridoxine, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

Fiber is  important for healthy digestion and controlling blood sugar levels. Magnesium and potassium are important electrolytes that are essential for muscle health and maintaining normal blood pressure levels. The B vitamins thiamine and pyridoxine aid in red blood cell production and manganese is used to help form connective tissue and bones.

Much like chickpeas, quinoa is one of the only plant-based foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa is  similar to rice and is often eaten in its place or even mixed  with it. The main difference is that it is technically not considered a cereal grain, has a round shape and contains more nutrients.

Not only is it high in protein but it is also rich in fiber, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus as well as folate and iron, which are particularly important for pregnant women. Quinoa is an excellent option for dinner because it goes with nearly any side and you can get all the protein you need without preparing any meat.

Enjoy this delicious, healthy, comforting recipe for your next family dinner!


  • 1 halved and seeded acorn squash
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 3/4 tsp pepper, divide
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups reduced-fat vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped habanero pepper (remove seeds for less heat)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta, plus more for topping
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for topping
  • Dried cranberries for topping

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

Place squash halves on baking sheet. Put 1/2 tablespoon butter in each acorn squash half and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast squash for about 45 minutes, until it’s tender to the fork.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the quinoa. Bring quinoa and vegetable stock or water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic and habanero pepper, and sauté while occasionally stirring for about seven minutes, until it begins to brown. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into mixture and squeeze lemon juice over. Turn heat to low and add the cooked quinoa to the veggie mixture. Add in spinach and stir to combine and wilt spinach a bit. Stir in feta cheese and parsley. Spoon quinoa mixture into acorn squash halves and top with additional feta and parsley. Add dried cranberries.

MCHD WIC provides nutrition packages and counseling and breastfeeding support to participants in six counties. WIC is an equal opportunity employer. To find out if you qualify, check out or call 1-800-675-5181.