Holiday Fuel for Endurance Athletes: Stuffed Acorn Squash

Endurance athletes eat for stamina. This vegetarian recipe provides the ideal balance of nutrients to support long training sessions.

The last few weeks of 2015 are upon us. Now is the time I try to be especially conscious of what I’m eating and creating in the kitchen. It’s easy to let it go at this time of year. One holiday party after another, a few missed workouts, an extra martini, and bam – you’ve put on several pounds and lost some fitness along the way.

At this time of year we seem to eat lots of meat, so I’ve been considering vegetarian options for a holiday dinner to even things out. I decided on an acorn squash, stuffed with a mixture of pearl barley, black lentils, and dried fruit.

This squash is a complete meal perfect for endurance athletes like myself. The black lentils add a punch of protein. The barley and squash add complex carbohydrates we need for long hours out on the trails. Finally, the dried fruit gives us some quick carbs, which are fantastic for recovery and energy.

You can make this recipe a day ahead. Prepare everything up to the point of stuffing the squash and refrigerate. Perfect.

Stuffed Acorn Squash With Pearl Barley, Black Lentil, and Dried Fruit Salad

Yield: Serves 6

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour


  • 3 acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup black lentils
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley, faro, or other grain
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup assorted dried fruits like dates, raisins, and cranberries
  • Kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut the acorn squash in half and take out the seeds/pulp. Melt the butter and brown sugar in the oven and drizzle over the flesh of the butternut squash. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove and reserve after 25 minutes.
  3. Now make the black lentils by bringing the lentils and 2 cups of water to a boil. Partially cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Heat another saucepan to medium heat with the olive oil. Sauté the onions, celery, and garlic for a few minutes. Add in the barley and a large pinch of salt. Coat with the oil and vegetables. Pour in 2 cups of water and bring to a boil with the cinnamon stick. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Once the lentils and barley are both cooked, it’s time to make the salad. Mix together the walnuts, dried fruit, lentils, and barley. Season with a large pinch of kosher salt. Mix and taste. Adjust seasonings if need be.
  6. Fill the acorn squash with the salad mixture and place back in the oven for 20-30 minutes. You just want it heated through and a little brown on top.
  7. Once you see some color, remove from the oven and serve.

You’ll Also Enjoy:

Photo courtesy of Susan H

Leave a Comment