I don’t ever cook special foods just for picky kids or use food as a reward, but I do let kids help cook (it encourages them to try a wider variety of foods) and let them get creative with it.
This recipe was the result of their creativity one time and has been a favorite ever since! It combines healthy proteins and vegetables stuffed in a nutrient-packed acorn squash bowl. When you add a handmade sail, the stuffed acorn squash looks a lot like a boat. When I make it, I let the kids help decorate their “sails” and mix the stuffing.
How to Make Stuffed Acorn Squash
To prepare the squash for stuffing in this recipe, first cut each squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds, but don’t throw them out! Rinse them off, toss them with salt, spices, and oil, and roast them in the oven for a crunchy, delicious, and healthy snack. From two acorn squash you’ll get about ¾ cup of roasted seeds, full of fiber and magnesium. Here’s the full recipe for roasted winter squash seeds.
Bake the squash face down in a baking dish with about an inch of water for half an hour to partially cook. While the squash is cooking, make the stuffing. My recipe uses ground beef or sausage (or a mix), a variety of vegetables, apple, and spices, and eggs for added protein and a binder. If you’d like to use different veggies or leave out the eggs, go for it!
When the squash is done baking, dump the water out of the baking dish, flip the squash over, and fill the cavity of each with the stuffing mixture before returning to the oven for another half hour. If you have leftover filling, you can cook it on the stove and serve it with the squash or freeze it so it’s all ready next time you want to make stuffed squash.
We like to eat our stuffed squash with sour cream or grated Parmesan cheese. Sometimes we add another egg to the top in the last few minutes of cooking for an over easy egg topping.
Set Sail in Stuffed Acorn Squash Boats!
While the squash is baking is a perfect time to make the sails for the acorn squash boats. This step is completely optional, but I promise, the kids will love it. They’ll have a great time making the sails in the first place, and then when you stick them in the boats you’ll hear repeated exclamations of “Oh, they’re little boats! They’re so cute!”
To make the sails, simply cut out triangles or quadrilaterals of paper. Then give the kids any sort of decorating supplies such as markers or crayons, watercolor paints, stencils, or stickers. When they’re done, poke a small hole in the center of the top and bottom and thread a medium size shish kebab skewer through, pointy side down. When the boats come out of the oven, stick in the sail!
Stuffed Acorn Squash Boats
Yield 4 squash boats
A fun and nutritious recipe of acorn squash "boats" stuffed with protein and vegetables for a fun and filling meal idea...
- 2 acorn squash
- 1 lb ground beef or sausage
- 2 medium onions
- 2 medium apples
- 8 oz fresh mushrooms
- 1 TBSP butter or coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- ½ tsp basil
- ½ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes
- 1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)
- 4 eggs (optional)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- sour cream to top (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
- Place the squash cut side down in a large baking dish.
- Add 1 inch of water to the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes until mostly soft.
- While the squash is cooking, brown the meat in a large skillet.
- When cooked, remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.
- Chop the onions, apple, and mushrooms.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter or coconut oil in the skillet.
- Add the chopped vegetables to the skillet and saute 10 minutes.
- Mix in the garlic, spinach, and spices and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Chop the sun dried tomatoes and pecans.
- Remove skillet from the heat and mix in the tomatoes and pecans.
- Pour the vegetables into the bowl with the meat.
- Allow to cool about 10 minutes.
- Add the eggs to the mixture and mix well.
- Remove the squash from the baking dish and pour out the water.
- Return the squash to the dish, face up, and stuff the hollows with the meat and vegetables.
- Return to the oven and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.
- Serve alone or topped with Parmesan cheese or sour cream.
- We also like adding an egg during baking for an over-easy egg on top.
- If you have leftover filling after stuffing the squash you can either cook and stir it on the stove for extra stuffing to top the squash with when serving, or freeze it and use it next time you make stuffed squash.
- Feel free to swap out any vegetables you don't like for those you do.
- For sails use a bamboo skewer as the mast and cut a sail out of a piece of paper. Attach my poking two small holes in the sail and weaving the skewer through.
Serving Size 1 squash half
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 33 g
Saturated Fat 7.6 g
Cholesterol 240 mg
Sodium 772 mg
Total Carbohydrates 47.3 g
Dietary Fiber 10.8 g
Sugars 12.7 g
Protein 36 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Next on my list to try: a Thanksgiving-themed squash stuffed with a grain-free stuffing like those listed in this post!
Ever made stuffed squash? What recipes have you turned into a kid-friendly meal? Share below!