In the movie “Pay It Forward,” a sad-eyed 7th grader comes up with a formula for spreading kindness. He even plots it on the blackboard.

If he did a good deed for three people, helping them accomplish something they couldn’t do on their own, and they each “paid it forward” by doing a good turn for three other people, the acts of kindness would multiply and gather momentum. That first good deed would be a lone pebble that pings down a mountain and sets in motion a thundering avalanche.

With its high concept and melodramatic ending, set to the lyrics of “Calling All Angels,” the movie seems designed to be a call to action, a cousin to what sometimes is called the Random Acts of Kindness movement. But there’s a funny thing about the Random Acts of Kindness movement: It’s not as random as it seems.  Take last night for example, I received a text message from John “Hey Erika, I hope everything went well and that you are feeling better! Jovi made some homemade salsa on the weekend so I am sending a jar with the macros home with Neil. Get feeling better :)”

See kindness isn’t dead.  If you don’t have kindness in your life you need to relocate.

I used John’s hot babe of  girlfriends salsa in this amazing acorn squash recipe.  Don’t worry I provide an alternative as well.

Roasted and Stuffed Acorn Squash:

(Serves 4)


2 acorn squash
• Olive oil
• Salt
• Fresh cracked black pepper
¼ onion, finely diced
¼ lb extra lean ground beef (96/4)
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Pinch cumin
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• Pinch cinnamon
¾ cup cooked brown rice
½ cup black beans
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, divided use
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
¼ teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 green onion, chopped, for garnish
• Simple Tomato-Cilantro Salad (recipe below)


-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

-Prepare the acorn squash by cutting off the bottom “point” to create a flat surface (don’t take too much off), and also cut the stem part off to create another flat surface, again taking care to not cut too much off; next, cut the squash in half width-wise, in the center, creating 4 halves; scoop the seeds and stringy bits out, drizzle a little bit of olive oil into each of the 4 halves, and add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper to each half; place each squash half onto the baking sheet with the cavity facing down, and roast for roughly 35 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender; remove from the oven, and allow the squash to cool slightly until they can be handled; leave the oven on.

-While the squash roasts, cook the ground beef by placing a medium-size non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and drizzling in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the onion, and saute for about 2 minutes; next, add in the ground beef and break it up with a spoon/spatula into small crumble; once the beef has slightly browned, add in a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the garlic, the cumin, the cayenne and the cinnamon, and stir to combine; allow the beef to finish browning, then turn the heat off, and turn the seasoned beef mixture out into a bowl; next, add to the beef the cooked brown rice, the black beans, the quartered cherry tomatoes, the chopped cilantro, the sunflower seeds and the orange zest, and combine the ingredients very well; add another pinch of salt if needed, and set the mixture aside for a moment, keeping warm.

-Once the squash is cool enough to handle, spoon equal portions of the beef/rice mixture into the cavity of each squash half, sprinkle over the top about 1 tablespoon of the sharp cheddar cheese, and place the halves back onto the baking sheet and into the oven to bake for an additional few minutes just until the cheese melts; serve with Tomato-Cilantro Salad on the side, for a fresh and bright addition.

Simple Tomato-Cilantro Salad ingredients:

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
• Salt
• Olive oil


-Place the halved tomatoes into a bowl, and add in the cilantro, the lemon or lime juice, a pinch of two of salt and a drizzle of olive oil; toss all ingredients together, and keep in fridge until ready to serve.

With Love from the Trench Kitchen,