I feel like a big cheater this week. First I took a perfectly good recipe that called for tofu and made it with chicken instead. And now I'm giving you a favorite recipe for stuffed acorn squash that's only meatless because I swapped in a fake meat substitute (in this case, faux sausage).
I'm not sure how I feel about things masquerading as meats. We eat them semi-regularly: Morningstar "chicken" nuggets, Boca burgers and such. They're almost always lower in fat and calories than the real thing. And the enviromental impact of growing items like soybeans and mushrooms is smaller than growing a cow or pig. But then you factor in all the processing and added ingredients...and they always come in so much packaging...like I said, I'm torn.
(While we're on the subject of cheating, I do have a quick tip for faking spaghetti with meat sauce. You can swap out the ground beef for bulgur--1 cup dry bulgur for every 1 pound of meat. Add 1 cup boiling water--or beef stock for more flavor--to 1 cup bulgur, cover and let sit for several minutes. Very similar texture but more fiber, less fat, less money. It works in soups, too.)
Enough guilt. Back to the stuffed squash. I love this meal. The combination of the squash, sausage, cranberries, apples and pecans just captures autumn perfectly. It's pretty enough to serve to guests (it looks more impressive in real life than in my picture) and not very hard to make. And it's a dinner recipe made with maple syrup. How can it go wrong?
The results: Everyone ate it! Whoo! I fully expected the four-year old to turn up his nose, but he was chowing down. Maybe it was the novelty of the little squash bowl? I wasn't about to question it. Four year olds--who can understand them?
The verdict: The change to the faux sausage in this recipe is one we'll keep. It's healthier without the pork and it didn't change the favor or texture of the dish at all.
Recipe below the jump, plus more meatless meals at EnviroMom...
STUFFED ACORN SQUASH
(Very slightly modified from a Sunset recipe)
2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 lb. each), rinsed
8 oz. bulk ground sausage substitute (we used Gimme Lean)
1/2 c chopped onion
2 sweet apples such as Fuji (1 lb. total), peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/4 t dried thyme
3 T chopped pecans
1/4 c maple syrup
Cut each squash in half crosswise; scoop out seeds. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half so it can stand upright. Place each half, cavity side down, in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and cover pan tightly with foil. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until tender when pierced, 45 to 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, stir sausage until it is crumbly and just slightly pink, about 5 minutes. Drain off and discard fat. [Note: the fake sausage doesn't really generate fat to drain off.] Add onion, apples, cranberries, and thyme; stir often until apples are tender when pierced, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in pecans.
Uncover squash and turn halves upright; fill equally with sausage mixture. Drizzle equally with maple syrup and bake, uncovered, until filling is slightly browned on top, about 15 minutes longer.