Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon

Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon
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About This Recipe

Nestled between the sprawling vineyards and the serene landscapes of Napa Valley, there's a certain allure to the recipes born here – an allure that captures the essence of wine country, the farm-to-table freshness, and a sophistication that's rooted deep within our culinary culture. One such recipe, which I've cherished and perfected over the years, is the Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon. A dish so heartwarming and inviting, it's like a comforting hug on a brisk evening.

Inspired by Napa's breathtaking autumn, where the leaves shimmer in gold and amber, and the vineyards are buzzing with harvest energy, this dish encapsulates that very essence. The acorn squash, locally sourced, of course, boasts of earthiness, while the locally grown apples bring in a crisp, sweet touch. Napa's farmers markets, particularly the one at Oxbow Public Market, are a treasure trove for these fresh ingredients. It's the valley chef's dream, turning these raw, beautiful ingredients into a dish that sings of home.

Now, when it comes to side dishes, I always lean into the bounty that our wine country offers. A wild arugula salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a light vinaigrette or perhaps roasted Brussels sprouts caramelized with a touch of honey from our local apiaries. For dessert? Oh, how about a luscious fig and almond tart? Figs are such a gem in the Napa region – their sweet, jammy texture pairs so beautifully with the nuttiness of the almonds.

Speaking of pairings, it would be remiss not to discuss wines. Napa is, after all, the wine mecca. For this dish, a Chardonnay from Far Niente Winery, with its buttery undertones and notes of apple and pear, complements the dish's warmth and richness. And for those with a penchant for sweetness, the Late Harvest Riesling from Navarro Vineyards, close to Sonoma, is a revelation. This wine, with its zesty citrus backbone, plays a delightful dance with the apple and brown sugar mix of our squash masterpiece.

While many flock to Napa to explore the renowned wineries, there are hidden gems often missed. Take a detour to Storybook Mountain Vineyards, a lesser-known but enchanting winery that's steeped in history and offers some of the most aromatic Zinfandels.

Napa isn't just about the wine, though. It's about the experience, the history, the connection to nature, and of course, the authentic recipes that come from the heart of the home chef. Each dish tells a story, a memory, a hint of nostalgia. And this Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash is no different. It's not just any recipe; it's a reflection of wine country, a symphony of flavors harmonized with the rhythm of Napa.

The next time you're planning a summer dinner or looking for quick dinner ideas, turn to this dish. It's an easy, healthy dinner that feels luxurious. It's a dish that doesn't just belong on any restaurant wine menu; it's a dish that belongs in the homes of those who cherish the spirit of Napa, who understand the allure of the vineyards, and who seek to create chef meals at home that resonate with love, warmth, and authenticity. So, cheers to the wine country, to authentic recipes, and to beautiful memories crafted in the heart of the valley.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Acorn Squash

Acorn squash, a staple in many autumnal recipes, takes the spotlight in this heartwarming dish. Known for its rich, earthy flavor and vibrant green skin, this winter squash is not only visually appealing but also nutritionally dense. It's packed with vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. When combined with sweet and tangy flavors, like the Fuji or Honeycrisp apples in this recipe, the result is a harmonious blend of textures and tastes. The versatility of acorn squash is evident in many dishes across various cuisines, but in this particular recipe, it captures the essence of Napa Valley's farm-fresh charm.

How to Caramelize the Apple Mixture Perfectly

  1. Selecting the Apples: For a balanced flavor profile, choose apples that have both sweet and tart notes, such as Fuji or Honeycrisp.
  2. Even Dicing: Ensure that the apples are diced uniformly. This ensures even cooking and caramelization.
  3. Monitor and Stir: As the apple mixture bakes inside the acorn squash, it's essential to keep an eye on it. The brown sugar will cause the mixture to caramelize, and you want it to reach a deep golden hue without burning.
  4. Final Touch: When the squash is nearly done, broil for an additional 1-2 minutes for an extra caramelized top. Ensure you're watching closely to avoid burning.

FAQs about Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon

  1. Can I use a different type of squash? Absolutely! Butternut or delicata squash can be good alternatives. Adjust the cooking time as these may vary in thickness and size compared to acorn squash.
  2. What if I have nut allergies? The nuts are optional and can be omitted without compromising the flavor. For a crunchy alternative, try adding granola or roasted pumpkin seeds.
  3. How do I store leftovers? Place any leftover stuffed squash in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat, place in an oven set to 350°F until warmed through.
  4. Can I substitute the brown sugar? Yes, you can use maple syrup, coconut sugar, or agave nectar as an alternative. Adjust to taste.
  5. What other tools can enhance the cooking process? A melon baller can be handy to remove the seeds from the acorn squash smoothly. Additionally, a silicone brush can be used to brush a hint of melted butter on the outer skin of the squash for added flavor and a glossy finish.

Tips for Success

  1. Squash Selection: Choose acorn squash that feels heavy for its size and has a deep green, blemish-free skin.
  2. Apple Alternatives: If you don't have Fuji or Honeycrisp apples on hand, Granny Smith apples can also be a great option, providing a more tart contrast to the dish.
  3. Serving Suggestion: Serve the Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash as a side dish during holiday dinners or elevate it as a main dish by pairing with a protein like roasted chicken or grilled tofu.

Recipe Overview

Recipe:
Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon
Author:
Lily Anderson
Season:
Fall
Yield:
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
220
Prep Time:
PT15M
Cook Time:
PT50M
Total Time:
PT1H5M

Ingredients List

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 2 large apples (like Fuji or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Fresh mint for garnish (optional)

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Preheat Oven: Set the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Prep Squash: Place the acorn squash halves, cut side up, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or lightly greased.
  3. Apple Mixture: In a mixing bowl, combine the diced apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
  4. Stuff the Squash: Fill each acorn squash half with the apple mixture. Top each with pieces of butter and sprinkle with nuts, if using.
  5. Bake: Place the stuffed squash in the oven and bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the apple mixture has caramelized.
  6. Serve: Once done, remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Garnish with fresh mint if desired and serve warm.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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