Saturday, October 23, 2010

San Diego and Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Last weekend was my Fall Break, which also happened to coincide with the American Society of Anesthesiologists conference in San Diego. Earlier this year, Joe had submitted four medically challenging cases, and all of them were accepted for the ASA. Because his department will reimburse travel expenses, I decided to take advantage of a free hotel room and tag along.


In brief, we stayed at the Sofia Hotel (very nice and modern appointments but tiny, so it’s a good thing we aren’t large people). The first night we met up with ThatGirl and her husband, Thatboy. They greeted me with a belated birthday present – a bag full of her favorite San Diego treats including the three most important food groups: bread (with some local jam as well), booze (hard cider and a local beer), and chocolate. Then we headed out to Starlite, their favorite restaurant, for some delicious cocktails and burgers. The food and drinks were great, but I particularly liked the architecture and ambience. It was very 1970s-lounge but without the sleaze factor.

The next morning, Joe and I went for a run along the harbor, grabbed breakfast, and headed to the conference. Joe’s dad (also Joe) drove down from LA, where he was for business, to join us, and his hotel room had some killer views as well as being right next door to the convention center.


We walked around the convention center for a while before Joe had to put up his posters. Joe showed his dad how to do an epidural and intubate someone on a simulator, and then it was time to present!


I didn’t understand anything that was being presented, though I still walked around and looked at some of the other posters and tried to seem pensive and impressed. I might be a little biased, but I thought the Vanderbilt posters (and Joe’s particularly) were the most professional and aesthetically interesting posters that I saw. Of course, Joe had some help with last minute editing from a certain spouse who does a lot of writing.


After that, we headed to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, for the opening reception. There was lots of fun food like tamales, nachos, cotton candy, hot dogs, and fish tacos. I can’t even remember the last time I had eaten cotton candy so I had to get some. Then Vanderbilt had a reception at the Marriott, so we headed there. Between the food at Petco Park and the food at the Vandy reception, we skipped our reservation for dinner and loaded up on the mashed potato bar (roasted garlic!) and chocolate covered strawberries.

The next day was more of the same thing – presenting posters, wandering around the expo, and attending some lectures. We met Joe’s cousin, her husband, and kids at The Fish Market. Since living in a land-locked state, fresh fish has a particular appeal, especially when it doesn’t have to go very far. Thanks to Thatgirl, I was loaded down with all kinds of delicious-sounding recommendations for places where we could eat and drink. We decided to make reservations at Searsucker, a new restaurant by Brian Malarkey, and our friends Brett and Katie joined us. The food was good and of high quality, but the service was a bit spotty.


Now this is where Thatgirl makes me look like a rock star. We took our friends to a secret bar. Noble Experiment is a bar within another bar, and you make reservations via text message. It’s similar to Nashville’s Patterson House in the atmosphere and quality of the drinks but way more secretive. So we walk into the bar that houses Noble Experiment, go down the hallway with the bathrooms, and there is what looks like a wall of kegs. Brett and Katie start wondering why I’m pushing on the wall, and, like Indiana Jones, the wall of kegs is actually a door that leads to the bar. We had a great time there, and the drinks were inventive and extremely high-quality, though not inexpensive.

After all of that rich food and beverage, my body was craving a lot of vegetables and plant proteins, something exactly like this quinoa-stuffed acorn squash. I noticed that the original recipe included garbanzo beans, which I think would’ve been more appropriate for the sort of Moroccan flavor the recipe is going for. The brown sugar/butter mixture is also expendable. I didn’t feel that it added much to the recipe since the acorn squash were already sweet enough. My changes are reflected in the recipe. Because you make the quinoa and vegetable mixture while the squash cooks, it’s a relatively quick weeknight meal considering you’re roasting squash and perfect for a clean meal after an indulgent weekend!


Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash
adapted from FitSugar


3 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
6 teaspoons shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Arrange squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, or until tender.
  3. While the squash is baking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, celery, and carrots, and cook five minutes. Mix in the beans and raisins and continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender.
  4. Boil two cups water, one cup quinoa, and the bouillon cube together. Once this comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until quinoa is cooked. Season cooked quinoa with cumin, salt, and pepper. Then stir in the veggies and beans.
  5. Stuff each squash halve with about a cup of the quinoa veggie mixture, and sprinkle with one teaspoon cheddar cheese. Cook another five minutes or until the cheese is melted.