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I was kind of hoping that the heaps and piles of tomatoes, eggplant and basil in the garden would just like… go away on their own or something. But there they are, hanging on the vines, getting cold and even a bit sad-looking. I’m the only eggplant enthusiast in the house so I’m feeling even more guilt about the whole not-using-them-up-thing because they were clearly intended for my consumption. But there’s a whole 10 plants-worth of abundant japanese eggplant out there! Guh. Anyway.

So I came up with this little puree soup. I love super garlicky baba ghanoush. It’s so flavourful and easy to make at home. This soup is no different. You kind of just roast everything off, combine the veg with some liquid and let it rip in the blender/food processor. I made some tomato water and a little non-dairy buttermilk concoction for the liquid portion. The tomato water isn’t necessary (you could use vegetable stock or water), but it tastes so awesome. If you plan ahead and have cheesecloth, it’s a breeze. Just grind the tomatoes up with the implement of your choosing, pour it into some layered cheesecloth and hang overnight in the fridge over a pitcher. Pretty lax preparation for something so magnificent and pure tasting. Plus if someone asks you what that red stuff in the cheesecloth bundle is in the fridge, you can say “Oh nothing. Just some tomato water.” Very gangster.

So the end result is like a steamy bowl of summer ripeness: it’s tangy, robust, warming and a touch sweet. The basil on top makes it fresh, its lively green colour nodding to the end of summer days. Some chopped olives on top would be nice too. I had some garlicky cashew cream made up for a batch of kale chips so I dabbed a little bit on top to make it pretty. A little pita for dipping would totally drive the theme home.

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tangy baba ghanoush soup
serves: makes 2 quarts
special equipment: a blender or food processor
notes: As mentioned above, you can use vegetable stock or water instead of the tomato water. You could also grill the vegetables if you have access to a barbecue. They might be a get drier though, so more liquid would be necessary.

8-10 japanese eggplants (or 3-4 regular)
1 large cooking onion, large dice
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cloves of garlic, peel on
4 cups tomato water (I followed this technique)
3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 tsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp tahini
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper
1 sprig of basil, rough chop + extra for garnish

Roast the eggplant and onions: cut eggplants down the centre lengthwise. Make crosshatching cuts into the flesh and sprinkle with salt. Lay out on a large parchment lined sheet for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. After 20 minutes, squeeze out excess water from eggplant. Place them cut side down on the sheet. Put into the oven and roast until soft and collapsed looking, about 30 minutes.

For onions: toss with oil and cumin and place on parchment lined sheet with garlic cloves. Roast until onions are soft and browned and garlic is mushy, about 20 minutes.

Combine nondairy milk with white wine vinegar and allow to curdle for at least 10 minutes.

Scrape flesh out of eggplants into a bowl and set aside. Remove papery skins from garlic and discard.

Blend eggplant flesh, onions and garlic with the tomato water (or stock), buttermilk, lemon juice, tahini, basil, salt and pepper. You may have to do this in a couple of batches.

Pour blended soup into a pot and bring to a boil. Serve hot with small basil leaves as garnish.

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  • victoria08/10/2011 - 11:18 am

    oh boy.
    you have made my favorite dip into my favorite food vehicle.

    i might weep.ReplyCancel

    • MeShell09/10/2011 - 9:50 pm

      That’s such a wonderful idea for a soup (and excess eggplant!)
      It looks beautiful.ReplyCancel

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Let me just elaborate on the title of this post a bit: a warm yukon gold potato salad with creamy dijon and leek dressing, crunchy pumpernickel croutons and vibrant little flecks of herbs. Starch on starch. Big time carb scene. It’s like wrapping yourself in a warm, cuddly blanket and getting all happy-sleepy. Also, no mayonnaise or freaky vegan mayonnaise substitutes either. Just a lovely, blended dressing of cooked leeks, mustard, olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice.  It’s super creamy, a bit tangy and punchy with dijon; perfect for this sort of thing.

I was never crazy about potato salad. There’s obvious health woes involved, but the overall, squishy, non-varying texture didn’t work for me most of all. That’s where these delicious and hearty croutons come in. They make it unique and fun. You get a bite of creamy potato all slicked with that amazing dressing, some fresh, peppery herb and a crisp crouton to finish it up. All in one bite! Also, the decision to add croutons stems from my love of their presence on um… everything.

Suffice to say, this is cold weather food. It’s deeply satisfying and satiating. It was perfect for the rainy, windy and cold weekend we had here. Definitely putting forward that whole food-as-love thing. It’s the starchy side dish that hugs you back. Also a bonus: everything can be obtained locally (at least around my neck of the woods) and inexpensively for sure. Oh and if you grow herbs, your parsley and chives should be flourishing in the slightly cool weather right about now. Go get ’em!

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warm potato salad with creamy dijon dressing & pumpernickel croutons
serves: 4-5
notes: I only restrained myself with the croutons for photo appeal. The recipe makes way more and you should definitely fully enjoy them all.

3/4lb small potatoes (I used yukon gold)
3 cups cubed pumpernickel bread (or any old bread you like)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 leeks, cut in half, cleaned and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1.5 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid from potatoes/leeks
salt and pepper
3-4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves finely sliced
10-12 blades of chives, chopped as small as you can manage (or green onions)

Make the croutons: heat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss croutons with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the oven. Stir croutons up periodically for even browning. They take about 15 minutes.

Start the potatoes: place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water and a fat pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and keep at a lively simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Bring the water back to a boil and place the leeks in. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a blender.

Make the dressing: to the cooked leeks, add dijon, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of potato/leek cooking water, remaining oil, salt and pepper. Blend until thoroughly pureed, being careful with the whole warm liquid blending thing. Pour into a small saucepan and keep on low while you cut the potatoes.

Cut potatoes into little wedges or dices (they should still be warm). Place in serving dish and drizzle warm dressing on top. Place croutons and chopped herbs on top and serve.

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  • Ali03/10/2011 - 2:51 pm

    Perfect for a family dinner. The potatoes look so good, lovely photo… so appealing.ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey (Happyolks)03/10/2011 - 6:38 pm

    This DOES sound like a warm, cuddly hug. I love that it’s sans dairy :)ReplyCancel

  • Richa@HobbyandMore05/10/2011 - 2:19 pm

    such perfect combination of potatoes, spices and pumpernickel.. lovely salad!ReplyCancel

  • Erica06/10/2011 - 10:28 am

    I love your seasonal approach to cooking. Isn’t it funny how the produce in season at any given time seems to match exactly what you’d want to eat at that time of year? I also really like how you matched starchy foods with different textures (soft potatoes, crunchy pumpernickel) to make your starchy dish that “hugs you back.” Lovely!ReplyCancel

  • […] Warm Potato Salad with Creamy Dijon Dressing & Pumpernickel Croutons from The First Mess, and now you have a meal that will be conversation fodder for […]ReplyCancel

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I’m really, really happy I made these. A little while ago, I watched this charming little video and knew that I needed some macaroons in my life relatively soon. Inspired and excited, I hit the kitchen in a huge way. A huge, raw and dehydrated kind of way (I’ve included instructions for making them in the oven too). I worked from a favourite recipe of mine, incorporated some chia seeds and almond meal just to boost up the satiety factor and some chai spices to warm me up all cozy. They’re perfectly crisp on the outside and almost fudgy on the inside

I love them with tea or when I want a bit of something chocolatey but! Aside from the maple syrup, none of these ingredients are exactly local. I do love raw desserts. I think they’re amazing little feats of deliciousness, but I get this little guilt thing happening when I start to enjoy them more often. The really good ones depend heavily on exotic, imported ingredients. I guess most locally-focused coffee enthusiasts have to contemplate this issue sooner or later. I’ve gotten so used to their constant availability that to think about life without chocolate, vanilla beans or coffee is well… heavy. Other than discussing the virtues of moderation, I’m not sure what else I can say about this topic… Food for thought I guess. Fudgy, sweet, spicy and chewy food at that.

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chocolate chai macaroons with chia seeds
adapted from Raw Food Real World
serves: makes about 30
notes: If you decide to bake them in the oven, they will be more cookie-like and smooth on the outside and less fudgy. Also, if you’re a raw purist, go for agave instead of maple syrup.

3 cups dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup cocoa powder (I used raw cacao, but any type would be fine)
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
tiniest pinch of ground cloves
couple twists of black pepper
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil, lightly warmed to liquify
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F if using an oven.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, chia seeds, cocoa powder, almond meal, sea salt, spices and water. Stir to combine thoroughly. Add the maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract and stir again until fully combined and no dry cocoa powder/almond meal remains.

Cover and place dough/mixture into the fridge for about 15 minutes. The chia seeds do their thing and really bind the mix, making it much easier and less messy to scoop.

For the oven: drop heaped tablespoonfuls of mixture onto a parchment lined sheet. No need to space them out too much. Place them in the oven and bake for about 2 hours or until firm and dry on the outside.

For the dehydrator: drop heaped tablespoonfuls onto dehydrator sheets and dehydrate at 115 degrees F for 6-8 hours if you want them fudgy and longer if you want some chewiness. Also, I have a really budget dehydrator by Nesco. I just dropped the mix onto its grated layers and went with it. Maybe if you have a high roller type like an Excalibur you need to line the sheets with something? No idea.

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  • Ashlae29/09/2011 - 6:16 pm

    Holy. Yum. These look delicious – and I just so happen to have everything in my kitchen to make them.ReplyCancel

  • Charissa29/09/2011 - 9:30 pm

    I love, love, love homemade macaroons…at home, we’re making these a lot! It’s something we all can eat (some of have allergies, or try to avoid sugar, wheat) so it’s perfect!!!

    I like the chai twist to it!ReplyCancel

    • Laura30/09/2011 - 11:32 am

      It’s definitely the allergen/sensitivity friendly dessert of choice around here… except for people who don’t like coconut. But those people are crazy anyway ;)ReplyCancel

  • anna30/09/2011 - 12:50 am

    I love how the coconut taste stays in your mouth, and the chia seeds are a bonus too! Lovely dessert!ReplyCancel

  • Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit30/09/2011 - 7:53 am

    I love that you warmed them up by adding cinnamon and ginger. I love ginger and chocolate but have never thought to add the two in my macaroonsReplyCancel

    • Laura30/09/2011 - 11:31 am

      My favourite cookie of all time is a gingery chocolate crinkle rolled in cinnamon sugar. Such a perfect combination, especially in the cooler months.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley01/10/2011 - 8:31 pm

    Wow, these look amazing and so easy to make. Can’t wait to make them. When r u writing a cookbook?!ReplyCancel

  • Isobelle02/10/2011 - 12:40 am

    These look wonderful! I will have to try these out.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda02/10/2011 - 11:14 pm

    The spices in these macaroons sound delish! I’m sensing these in my future!ReplyCancel

  • Jo03/10/2011 - 2:33 am

    These look great! Just wondering if you would be able to substitute a different kind of oil for the coconut oil, or do you need to have an oil that is solid at room temperature?ReplyCancel

    • Laura03/10/2011 - 8:16 am

      In terms of structure and everything, I think any oil would work really. But the extra virgin coconut imparts a lot of rich, coconut-y flavour. Perhaps another nut oil? Or are you allergic to nuts? Extra virgin olive might be neat. I’ve always loved it paired with chocolate…ReplyCancel

  • Cookie and Kate10/10/2011 - 12:15 am

    I’m so intrigued by your macaroons! Cardamom, chia seeds, black pepper… I never would have thought to combine the three!ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/10/2011 - 7:51 am

      The first batch was waaay too spicy! Went a little crazy with the chai thing and everyone was kind of… wincing when they tried them. Oops. These are a perfectly restrained and balanced version promise!ReplyCancel

  • ana19/11/2011 - 4:11 am

    Looks delicious!
    One question: I don’t have a dehydrator so I’ll try to do it with my oven….on what temperature should I dry them?

    Thanks,
    a.ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/11/2011 - 8:26 am

      200 degrees Farenheit! They will be more cookie-ish if I remember right.ReplyCancel

  • joanne17/09/2012 - 2:33 am

    I’m trying eat healthier sweets, and was wondering if yacon syrup could be substituted for maple syrup?ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/09/2012 - 12:36 pm

      Hi Joanne,
      I haven’t worked with yacon too much, but I gather it’s the same level of sweetness as maple syrup. I think a 1:1 substitution would work out fine. Might have more of a molasses kind of taste, but that could be quite delicious too :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • […] (makes about 30 macaroons, adapted from The First Mess) […]ReplyCancel

  • Heather29/04/2014 - 8:14 am

    Hi Laura!
    First off, I have to say I love your blog! I grew up close to St. Catharine’s (now living in Toronto) and it’s so nice to have a food blogger to follow who lives so close by!
    I love these cookies and have made them several times already. I’ve somewhat recently made the switch to a plant based diet and I’m trying to cut out sugar (which has been really hard for me!) so it’s nice to have something easy to make and snack on. But just one question. Do you think I could substitute the maple syrup for rice malt syrup? I know someone asked about yacon but I’m not sure if this would be the same?
    Again, thank you so much for the lovely recipes and blog. I can’t get enough of it!
    HeatherReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright30/04/2014 - 7:10 pm

      Hi Heather! Thanks for your kind words and for connecting with this fellow Ontario-ite. Love it when some somewhat local peeps reach out. And in answer to your question, I’m not even sure! I’ve never used rice malt syrup before. Assuming it’s as sweet and relatively the same consistency as maple, I’d say go for it :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • […] (adapted from these) […]ReplyCancel

  • […] (adapted from these) […]ReplyCancel

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Couscous! The food so nice, they named it twice. Except this isn’t couscous. It’s cauliflower in a funny little disguise. From first glances this looks like a lovely grain salad with some chopped herbs, a bit of seasonal fruit and a sunny yellow curry dressing. But up close it’s a jumble of the teeniest cauliflower florets you could ever imagine mixed up with all of those great things. Neat, huh? I actually love eating cauliflower this way, it’s nice and crisp and kind of tricks me into eating more crucifers, the health all star of the veg world. Typically I roast it, but this dish is just too much fun

September is always a patchwork of undeniably summery days and cool, crisp fall previews around here. My schedule has been kind of wonky and irregular and we’ve been trying to soak up every last bit of enjoyable outdoor time. All of it has been having some unfortunate effects on my food habits. Skipping meals, nibbling on white bread here and there, indulging in sweet things, more coffee than I can usually handle, wine! and on and on. I’m not beating myself up for it at all. I’ve definitely been enjoying it but! I feel like some predictability is in order for my day to day lately.

So! Getting back down to it. I’ve adequately prepared myself in the food department. Lots of veggies, big bowls of grains, batches of soup and even bigger helpings of this non-grain-but-sort-of-grain-like salad in the fridge. Oh, and some Udo’s oil, a fresh jar of chocolate Vega and plenty of herbal tea. Seriously, it’s like a health food store in here!

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raw cauliflower couscous with curry vinaigrette, apples, grapes and herbs
inspired by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein’s Raw
serves: 6-8
notes: I just break the florets up by hand and rough chop them, but if you trim most of the stem off, you could probably just blitz them in the food processor and get the same effect. Garam masala is in the salad ingredients because it is traditionally used as a finishing spice.

vinaigrette:
1.5 tbsp curry powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1.5 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper
scant 1/2 cup grape seed oil

salad:
1 small head cauliflower, leaves trimmed off
2 green onions, white and green parts sliced thin
3 sprigs of parsley, leaves chopped fine
1 sprig of mint, leaves chopped fine
1 apple, small dice
1 cup grapes, halved (I used a concord-style grape)
1.5 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp garam masala
salt and pepper

Make the vinaigrette: place the curry powder, white wine vinegar, agave nectar salt and pepper in a blender. Blend that up for two seconds just to dissolve the salt. Add the oil all at once. Turn the blender on again to combine evereything into one homogenous mixture. Set aside.

Make the cauliflower couscous: break the cauliflower into florets. Trim off as much of the stem as you can. Break up the florets as small as you can and chop roughly to make pieces as uniformly sized as possible. Place into a large bowl. Alternatively, you could use the food processor method described above.

Add the vinaigrette, green onions, parsley, mint, apple, grapes, poppy seeds and garam masala to the cauliflower. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

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  • marywornoff27/09/2011 - 6:29 pm

    Please tell me what garam masala is and where can I find it in the grocery store?ReplyCancel

  • Anna28/09/2011 - 10:36 pm

    The combination is exotic and not overpowering one another. Genius combination!ReplyCancel

  • LIVING LUCID03/10/2011 - 7:49 am

    […] I’d love to try this cauliflower couscous recipe […]ReplyCancel

  • gangy buffet13/10/2011 - 10:56 pm

    Made this tonight! SO good.. I replaced with Red Wine vinegar because I was out of white. Yummy! Will post to my website soon, with a link to yours!

    I love your recipes BTW, totally in the style of mine! Would you like to be on my blogroll, Because i’d love to have you there! Let me know!ReplyCancel

  • […] | cauliflower “couscous” salad + falling back inSep 26, 2011 … Couscous! The food so nice, they named it twice. Except this isn’t couscous. It’s cauliflower in a funny little disguise. From first glances this looks … […]ReplyCancel

  • happy little life15/08/2012 - 6:33 pm

    looks truly amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole13/05/2013 - 9:54 pm

    Just made this tonight and it is oh-so-delicious! The spices, herbs and fruit make for a great combination. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Yola28/06/2013 - 2:12 am

    I made it yesterday and I love it! It’s so yummy. However, I didn’t like the taste of grapes in the salad (everybody has their own taste ;) ) but so far this is my favourite recepie and I don’t longer miss cooked curry because of your salad ^^ thank you <3ReplyCancel

  • Sarah18/12/2013 - 11:36 pm

    Made this salad for dinner- it was very tasty! Thanks for the recipe! Didn’t have a few of the ingredients on hand so just worked with what I had, turned out great!ReplyCancel

  • Ella12/06/2014 - 11:32 pm

    We just made this for dinner and it was so delicious! This was our third try with cauliflower couscous and we’ve loved it each time! I really liked the grapes and garam masala here, what a delicious flavor fusion. Thank you so much for the recipe <3
    Ella
    youtube.com/sparklesandsuch26
    P.S. I have a recipe on my youtube channel (above) for no bake & almost vegan peanut butter energy bars that I think you would really enjoy. Just thought I'd let you know! They're really delicious and super easy :) Have a great day!ReplyCancel

  • […] Heavily adapted from The First Mess’ Cauliflower “Couscous” Salad. […]ReplyCancel

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Okay, what I’m about to lay on you here is a bit… Thanksgiving-y. I know that it’s so far away and it’s still summery in spots and you don’t even wanna think about telling the same stories to your relatives over and over… But! This dish is definitely appropriate for everyday celebrating. And it’s so easy. It just takes a teeny bit of planning.

But back to Thanksgiving (yes!). It’s definitely my favourite holiday. I love the sincere appreciation of harvest time and how it brings people together. It’s pretty special. We’re at a peak time where I live: all kinds of squash and vegetables and fruits are available. I’m so thankful for it all. It’s been brisk and mostly grey and well.., I wanted to eat some squash. Stuffed with delicious and maybe just slightly festive things. Not too festive, just a little bit. A taste even.

So I made a stuffing for some garlic-roasted acorn squash with wheat berries, a few veggies, some herbs, spices, dried fruit and toasted nuts. There’s a lot of flexibility with this recipe though! You can use any kind of rice, farro, millet, different vegetables and spices, leave out the dried fruit, maybe add some chopped olives etc; whatever you fancy. I was going for that sage-y, hearty, traditional stuffing-flavour thing and it worked out beautifully.

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stuffed acorn squash with pine nuts, sour cherries and sage
serves: 2
notes: Roasting the squash with the garlic clove underneath is totally optional but so, so tasty. I try not to use frou-frou and buzz-y terms here, but it totally aromatizes it to high level, game-changer deliciousness (I’m sorry, really).

squash:
1 acorn squash
2 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
salt and pepper

stuffing:
1/2 cup wheat berries, soaked for at least a couple hours
1 tbsp grape seed oil
2 shallots, small dice (or 1 small-medium cooking onion)
1 celery stalk, small dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and small dice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground coriander
3 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped up fine
1 sprig sage, leaves chopped up fine
splash of white wine (alternatively you can squeeze a bit of lemon at the end or use a bit of white wine vinegar at the end too)
3/4 cup vegetable stock (or water)
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, chopped up roughly
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I just slide them into the oven for a bit while the squash is cooking)
3 sprigs parsley, leaves chopped fine

Start the grains: strain the wheat berries and place them in a small sauce pan with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until they are still a bit chewy (they will absorb more liquid later when making the stuffing). Drain if necessary.

Cook the squash: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. season the inside with salt and pepper. Place the smashed garlic cloves on a parchment lined baking sheet with a good amount of space in between. Put the seasoned squash halves over the garlic cloves so that the squash form upside down bowls over the garlic cloves. Place in the oven and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scrape a bit of the cooked squash flesh out. It should amount to about a 1/4 cup. Set it all aside.

Make the stuffing: heat the oil over medium and add the shallots. Cook until they begin to soften (4 minutes), add carrots, celery and the bay leaf. When the carrots and celery have softened up a teeny bit (about 4-5 minutes), add ground coriander, thyme, sage and dried cherries. Add the splash of white wine and stir the mixture around, scraping any bits off the bottom.

Add the drained wheat berries to the saute pan and stir to coat them in the mixture. Add the vegetable stock and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add the squash flesh you scraped out earlier and stir it around, incorporating it into the mixture (this will act like glue for the stuffing). Add the parsley and pine nuts, reserving a bit of both to garnish with at the end. Take off the heat.

On the same lined baking sheet, fill the squash halves with the stuffing as much as you can (there may be some leftover). Slide them into the oven to heat through completely. Garnish with remaining pine nuts and parsley, serve.

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