Halloween is over, which means it’s time to cook pumpkins, not carve them! Inspired by the Hidatsa Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin I made a couple of years ago, I purchased a couple of medium sized, organic sugar pumpkins at Sunflower Market. Instead of wild rice – which my kids don’t care for – I used quinoa.
Then motivated by the Pumpkins Stuffed with Quinoa, Butternut and Cranberries recipe I saw in the Denver Post last month, I decided to add butternut squash. Instead of dried cranberries, which are usually full of added sugar, I used unsweetened, dried cherries knowing that their slight tartness would go well with ground venison.
You may find that you have a lot of pumpkin left over, especially if your kids gobble up the venison and quinoa, and won’t touch the pumpkin, like mine did. If that’s the case, peel off the skin, and cut pumpkin up into chunks. You can serve the reheated pumpkin with a little bit of grated Parmigiano Regiiano. Or you can add the pumpkin chunks to soups, chili, stews or even to spaghetti sauce (just puree it in a food processor – your kids will never know it’s in there.) Or check out reader Michelle D.'s recipe for Pan-Seared Scallops Pumpkin Risotto.
Packing a nutritional wallop
Not only is this Quinoa and Venison Stuffed Pumpkin delicious, it’s also good for you!
Quinoa – Contains a balanced set of essential amino acids and is a good source of protein. Quinoa’s also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It’s gluten-free and considered easy to digest, too.
Cherries – According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, compared to other fruits, tart cherries have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, and contain 19 times more beta carotene than blueberries or strawberries. There’s also some evidence that links cherries to many important health benefits from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout, to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Venison – A super lean protein that is high in iron, but low in saturated fat. Venison is also a very good source of vitamin B12, providing 60.0% of your recommended daily value as well riboflavin (40.0% of the RDV), niacin (38.0% RDV) and vitamin B6 (21.5% of the RDV).
Butternut Squash – Not only is this squash high in dietary fiber, heart healthy, and has significant amounts of potassium, vitamin B6, and folate. But it’s also rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which may give it an anti-inflammatory effect.
Pumpkin – Full of fiber and vitamin A and low in calories.
This Mama’s tips
- Do not use a regular pumpkin! Sugar pumpkins are sweeter and less stringy.
- You can use ground lean beef, turkey or buffalo instead of venison. If you have a vegetarian in the family, leave out the venison and double the quinoa, squash and cherries. Or you can use BOCA ground crumbles instead of the venison.
- If you can’t find dried, unsweetened cherries, use dried cranberries, chopped up dates or sliced up dried plums (prunes).
- Instead of quinoa, you can substitute faro, brown rice, whole wheat tabouli or wild rice. Note, faro and tabouli aren’t gluten free.
- This would make a wonderful – and dramatic – addition to your Thanksgiving meal.
Quinoa and Venison Stuffed Pumpkin
- 1 medium to large sugar pumpkin (also called a pie pumpkin) 4-5 pounds
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon oil (canola, olive or grapeseed)
- 1 pound ground venison
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
- Prepare quinoa per package instructions. Usually 1 cup of dried quinoa equals three to four cups of cooked quinoa.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cut the top off the pumpkin and remove strings and seeds. Put top aside. Reserve the pumpkin seeds for another use.
- Prick the cavity with a fork and rub with 1 teaspoon salt.
- Rub the outside of the pumpkin with the oil.
- Place the pumpkin on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
- Add ground venison, chopped onion, minced garlic and ground cumin to a heated sauté pan. Cook until venison is browned.
- Turn off heat and add cooked quinoa, cherries and butter nut squash. Stir until evenly mixed.
- Stuff pumpkin with the venison and quinoa mixture and cover with the lid to keep it moist.
- Place 1/2″ water in the bottom of the rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. (As it cooks, add more water to the pan as necessary to avoid sticking.)
- Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the pumpkin skin starts to “bubble” and is tender. Do not over cook as the pumpkin will collapse.
- To serve, cut pumpkin into wedges, giving each person a slice of pumpkin and the venison and quinoa stuffing. Or you can scoop the sides of the pumpkin while scooping out the venison and quinoa mixture. Make sure to mix in the pumpkin before serving.
- Serving size: 1/8 of recipe
- Calories: 218
- Calories from Fat: 19
- Total Fat: 2.1g
- Sodium: 306mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 33.9g
- Sugar: 5.4g
- Fiber: 5.9g
- Protein: 16.8g
- Cholesterol: 0mg