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Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Mushroom Stuffing
Appliance: Slow Cooker - 6 quarts and larger
Also Requires: Rice Cooker - 6 cup capacity and larger
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This Gluten Free, Meat Free recipe is perfect for Holiday dinners
   3 – 4 small acorn squash
   Salt and pepper, to taste
   1/2 cup water

For the Stuffing:
   2 ounces dried mushrooms (such as morel or mixed)
   Water (for re-hydrating mushrooms)
   4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
   1 large onion (about 12 ounces), diced
   8 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
   2 tablespoons fresh thyme (divided)
   3 1/2 cups lower sodium chicken or vegetable broth
   2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage (divided)
   2/3 cup wild rice
   2/3 cup long-grain white rice
   1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
   Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash squash. Using a vegetable cleaver, cut in half through the stem to the base. If you don't have a cleaver, you can first slice off the stem end (which can be very tough to cut through). Scoop out the seeds and fibers. Sprinkle the flesh with a little bit of salt and pepper.

Pour the water into the bottom of your slow cooker's crock or inner bowl. Put squash into the crock, skin side down, stacking them as necessary. Cover and cook on high until flesh is soft throughout, about 3 hours. Cooked squash will stay warm in the covered slow cooker (on Off) for 30 to 40 minutes, or on Keep Warm for 60 to 90 minutes, while you prepare the stuffing.

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover them with room temperature water by about two inches, weighing them down with a shallow bowl or saucer. Allow them to soak until softened throughout, 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on thickness and variety. Check mushrooms periodically while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Drain the wild mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms and coarsely chop them. Strain the reserved soaking liquid through a coffee filter or paper towels to remove any grit. This mushroom broth can be kept, refrigerated, for up to a week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Add the butter to the inner bowl of the rice cooker and push the Cook button. When butter has melted, add the onion and both the fresh mushrooms and re-hydrated mushrooms. Cover and cook, stirring every two to three minutes, for 10 minutes, then add a pinch of salt. Continue to cook until the mushrooms and onions have browned, about 40 to 60 minutes, pushing Cook button each time the machine switches to Keep Warm during the process, if necessary. Transfer to a bowl, stir in a little pepper, and cover.

Place broth in your rice cooker's inner bowl and stir in half of the thyme, half of the sage and the wild rice. Cover and push the Cook button. Use brown rice or wild rice setting, if available. Cook for 40 minutes, then stir in the white rice. Cover and continue to cook until the white rice is almost tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. The rice cooker will not switch off, as not all of the cooking liquid will be absorbed by the rice.

Stir in onions, mushrooms and the remaining thyme and sage. Cover and continue cooking, stirring often, until the rice is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Switch rice cooker to Keep Warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cooked stuffing can be kept in the rice cooker, on Keep Warm, for up to 1 hour. Stir in parsley just before stuffing the squash.

Generously spoon stuffing into the cavity of the cooked squash, mounding extra stuffing above the top of the squash, if desired, and serve. Stuffed squash can be restacked in the slow cooker, if space allows, and held on Keep Warm, or Low for 30 minutes before serving.

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