Monday, 24 November 2014

Baked Spaghetti Squash Stuffed with Chicken, Corn and Black Beans

Leftover cooked chicken, some black beans in the freezer and a small spaghetti squash were the starting point for this meal. As the squash I had was quite small, I decided to cut it in half and stuff it, with each half feeding one person.

The chicken and black beans were combined with corn, seasoned with chili powder and topped with grated cheese...

Start by heating the oven to 350F and pre-baking the spaghetti squash until it is soft when pressed with your finger.

 Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.

While the squash cools, prepare the filling.

Finely dice half a small onion, and cook it in a bit of olive oil until it begins to soften.

 Season with:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper

Next, add:

1/2 tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Cook, stirring until the tomato paste is well combined.

Now add the cooked chicken. I had about 1 cup, diced.

Stir in:

1/2 cup black beans
3/4 cup frozen corn

Add a bit of water just to moisten everything, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.

When the filling has cooled, add grated cheese.

I used about 3/4 cup cheddar.

Now, prepare the squash for stuffing.

Cut it in half, lengthwise, and carefully remove the seeds. Place the 2 halves into an ovenproof dish.

Divide the chicken filling between the 2 squash halves, mounding it slightly in the centre.

Top the filling with a bit more grated cheese, if you wish.

Place the dish in a 350F oven and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese on top is melted and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

                  Serve with diced avocado and chopped green onions.

  • The squash I was using was not much bigger than an acorn squash; a bigger spaghetti squash could be used to serve more than one person per half. Place the baked halves on a platter and allow people to serve themselves, using the squash as a bowl.
  • Cooked ground beef or turkey can be substituted for the chicken. The meat can be omitted to turn it into a vegetarian meal...add more beans and more vegetables, such as red peppers or chopped cooked spinach to take the place of the meat.
  • Instead of topping the filling with only cheese, mix breadcrumbs with grated Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese, salt and pepper, and chopped fresh herbs.
  • As with any recipe, the cheese can be exchanged for the cheese that you have available.
  • Other stuffing ideas to try: chopped cooked spinach, diced cooked chicken, pesto and ricotta cheese; ground beef cooked with onions and garlic, chopped tomatoes, olives and feta cheese; leftover baked beans topped with cheese; leftover rice combined with cooked shrimp, peas, garlic and ginger and an Asian style marinade; couscous with raisins, almonds, green onions, chick peas, feta cheese and cooked lamb. The meats are all optional.
  • Some vegetarian options for stuffing squash are apples, pears, spinach or kale, beans or chick peas, lentils, dried fruit, grilled vegetables, nuts.
  • Other squash that can be stuffed the same way are acorn squash, butternut squash and sugar pumpkins.
  • Spices that work well with squash are cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, curry, turmeric and some herbs to choose from include sage, parsley, thyme.
  • Other flavours that complement squash are maple syrup, brown sugar, garlic, fresh ginger, coconut and orange.
  • The squash can be pre-baked a day or two ahead; it can also be stuffed a day ahead and kept well wrapped in the fridge.
  • This can be served as a stand alone meal, or a side dish.

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