1 medium Butternut squash, halved & de-seeded
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
2tbsp grapeseed, canola or olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 cup brown mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup walnut peices
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
1tsp agave nectar
1/2 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F
Rub the cut side of the squash with a little oil to prevent sticking and place them flesh-side down on a greased baking sheet. I used recycled aluminum foil to avoid too much mess. Place them in the oven for about 30 -40 minutes or until they are tender when a knife is inserted. I would check them after 30 minutes because they might be ready – in my experience, over-baking them isn’t great as the whole thing can collapse and isn’t as pretty when serving.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile cook the quinoa according to the package directions. If you don’t have package directions (you can buy your quinoa in the bulk bins,) you’ll need to boil 1 1/4 cups of water, add the quinoa, and simmer on a low heat with the lid on, until all the water is absorbed.
For the last 5 minutes of cooking time for the quinoa (usually takes about 15 minutes total) – so after 10 minutes, add the cranberries. When cooked, fluff up with fork and set aside to cool.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the onions, shallots, and garlic on a medium heat until they are just about to brown – keep stirring all the time, as you don’t want the garlic to burn. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the walnuts thyme, agave, salt and pepper and fry for a further minute or so. Remove from the heat.
Scoop most of the flesh out of the butternut nut squash, making sure the skins stay well intact and place it in a large bowl.
Add the quinoa & cranberries and gently fold into the soft squash. The key here is not tomix, but to gently combine, because you don’t want the whole thing turning into a mush.
Add the onion/mushroom mixture and again, gently combine. Finally mix in the parsley.
Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on a baking sheet, and cover each one with a piece of foil. Place in a medium oven (350 degrees) for 20 – 30 minutes. You can easily prepare this whole thing the day before and chill overnight. If so, you’ll need 30 minutes to heat it up, however, if you are cooking it while the ingredients are still warm, you’ll probably only need to bake for 20 minutes.
A nice finishing touch would be to sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese (for non-vegans), and whole wheat bread crumbs for vegans. If you decide to go for topping, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.