(acorn) squashing writer's block.

I was an English major. For me, this meant learning to navigate murky post-modern novels, while dissecting Shakespeare and writing decent papers. In my first semester, I heard two contradicting sentences uttered by my professors that altered my relationship with my pen.

Statement A: Philosophy Class. “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” –Socrates

Statement B: Journalism Class. “Write what you know.”

Statement A rang very true for me. Usually, when you think you’ve figured it out, whatever it is, you find yourself back at square one, admitting that you, in fact, still need to figure it out and learn a little more. 

Statement B was downright scary. Write what I know, I thought. What do I want to devote myself to learning enough about, to know that I can write about it? I didn't know.

If I write what I know, and I know nothing, then I write nothing.

And that’s what happened, dear friends. For the next ten years, I put writing aside. Well, let me clarify. I wrote professionally about weddings and beauty products and other people. When it came to me, there was radio silence. The expansive white computer screen was intimidating beyond imagination. With every blink of the cursor, I was reminded that I was speechless.

But everyone has stories to tell.

Thankfully, I've learned that jumping head first into something is the best way to learn/cope/get out of your comfort zone. Dipping my toes in the water allows too much time to think about whether I'll sink or swim. So now, whether or not I feel inspired or chatty or creative, I write. It has to be total submersion or bust.

When a lack of inspiration strikes in the kitchen, this little all-in-one dish saves the day. 
The stalls at the farmer's market were looking a little sad this week, still offering the sloppy seconds of winter's produce: squash, root vegetables, onions. The stuffed acorn squash that ensued turned a bitterly cold day into a brighter one. The best part is that they can be assembled in advance with whatever vegetables you have on hand and baked off when you're ready to eat--comfort food at its best.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Parsnip Stuffing
Serves 4
2 acorn squash, halved with seeds and pulp removed
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 large parsnips, grated
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 cup roasted broccoli florets
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup toasted pecan pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
4 T. butter
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
Minced chives to garnish
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese (optional)

1.) Arrange squash halves cut side up on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, until cooked through.

2.) Heat a medium skillet and coat the bottom with olive oil. Add the leek and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the broccoli and parsnips to the mixture and saute for 3 minutes--parsnips should be soft and golden, but not heavily browned. Stir in the pecans and cranberries. Season to taste.

3.) Make the sauce: Slowly brown the butter in a small skillet over low heat. The butter should take on a medium golden color and have a warm, nutty fragrance. (If it becomes black or starts to smoke it's gone too far.)
Once the butter is browned, add the nutmeg and cinnamon and a pinch of salt to season. Set aside.

4.) Fill each squash half with the vegetable mixture and drizzle one tablespoon of the brown butter sauce over each half. Broil on low for 2 minutes until the tops are golden. Cut each squash in half, sprinkle with chives and serve. Note: If you're a cheese lover, and who isn't, sprinkle the tops with shredded fontina and broil until a golden crust forms on the top.

Photos by Jamie Federico


  1. Looks delish and I love the pics too! Glad your writers block is "squashed"..I missed your posts this week!!