Food can be so very beautiful, and so very unique in its qualities. If we look closely enough and long enough, we can see a world of personality in food, a personality that yearns to communicate volumes in its own special way, if only we’ll listen; if only we’ll have the ears to hear. Food sustains and comforts us, provides sensual pleasure for us and gives us an opportunity to actually examine for ourselves how life begins and sprouts; how it grows and evolves over time. Though the process may seem painfully slow at times, it’s there for us to witness if we so choose. How we view food and how we use it ultimately speaks of our respect for it or lack thereof, and that in-turn reveals much to us about our own human nature. There’s a world of life lessons to be learned through food, and what gorgeous and generous a teacher it’s showing itself to be, indeed.
An unpretentious piece of nature’s art such as an acorn squash, inspires me to no end; what a shape it has, and what sensation that its thick, waxy skin provides my fingers as they run across its ridges and peaks. Sliced open, it has an almost flower-like look, one that reminds me of the simple but colorful flower-on-stem that I used to doodle over and over again as a little girl. With its stringy seeds scooped out and its bright orange flesh unobscured, an acorn squash seems to beckon to be roasted until soft and buttery, and filled with other complimentary morsels to create a brand new “whole”; a healthy, well-balanced and nourishing whole to be enjoyed and appreciated for what it provides one’s body. And that’s where I begin to see an interesting lesson forming, one that inspires me to find a parallel for my own life. I begin to recognize those elements of balance and well-being that a meal like this can bring to a person, all contained within an interesting and lovely package; and I consider that on a human level, I too, aspire to contain those very elements of balance and healthiness, of nourishment—that I may enrich, touch and make better another human life. Oh, to be like the roasted and stuffed acorn squash.
The beauty and the personality that is found in nature’s art, in food, is something that I’m grateful to be able to witness more and more these days, and appreciate. I’m working on being willing and available to having the eyes to see with and the ears to hear with, those subtle messages that are being quietly communicated to my heart. There are many things all around, perhaps some of them a bit unconventional and easy to overlook, that long to speak to us and possibly even teach us in their own quiet way. They just seem to follow the natural laws that they’re under and do what they’re created to do. And on those fleeting occasions when I take note of something “natural” trying to teach me something, may I be glad; and may I remember that I too have been created to be a benefit—a source of balance, health and well-being— to my fellow human beings, and to follow that prompting should be equally as natural to me.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Roasted & Stuffed Acorn Squash with Brown Rice, Seasoned, Lean Ground Beef and Black Beans, with a touch of Sharp White Cheddar
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2 acorn squash
• Olive oil
• Fresh cracked black pepper
¼ onion, finely diced
¼ lb extra lean ground beef (96/4)
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Pinch cumin
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• Pinch cinnamon
¾ cup cooked brown rice
½ cup black beans
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, divided use
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
¼ teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 green onion, chopped, for garnish
• Simple Tomato-Cilantro Salad (recipe below)
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
-Prepare the acorn squash by cutting off the bottom “point” to create a flat surface (don’t take too much off), and also cut the stem part off to create another flat surface, again taking care to not cut too much off; next, cut the squash in half width-wise, in the center, creating 4 halves; scoop the seeds and stringy bits out, drizzle a little bit of olive oil into each of the 4 halves, and add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper to each half; place each squash half onto the baking sheet with the cavity facing down, and roast for roughly 35 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender; remove from the oven, and allow the squash to cool slightly until they can be handled; leave the oven on.
-While the squash roasts, cook the ground beef by placing a medium-size non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and drizzling in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the onion, and saute for about 2 minutes; next, add in the ground beef and break it up with a spoon/spatula into small crumble; once the beef has slightly browned, add in a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the garlic, the cumin, the cayenne and the cinnamon, and stir to combine; allow the beef to finish browning, then turn the heat off, and turn the seasoned beef mixture out into a bowl; next, add to the beef the cooked brown rice, the black beans, the quartered cherry tomatoes, the chopped cilantro, the sunflower seeds and the orange zest, and combine the ingredients very well; add another pinch of salt if needed, and set the mixture aside for a moment, keeping warm.
-Once the squash is cool enough to handle, spoon equal portions of the beef/rice mixture into the cavity of each squash half, sprinkle over the top about 1 tablespoon of the sharp cheddar cheese, and place the halves back onto the baking sheet and into the oven to bake for an additional few minutes just until the cheese melts; serve with Tomato-Cilantro Salad on the side, for a fresh and bright addition.
Simple Tomato-Cilantro Salad ingredients:
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
• Olive oil
-Place the halved tomatoes into a bowl, and add in the cilantro, the lemon or lime juice, a pinch of two of salt and a drizzle of olive oil; toss all ingredients together, and keep in fridge until ready to serve.