Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Healthy comfort food. Yes, it can be done ...

Whoa. Two healthy posts in a row … what’s come over me?! Actually, I try to keep us on the straight and narrow most of the time, but most of those recipes aren’t necessarily of the drool-inducing variety that I aim to post here. So lest you think that Morgan and I mainly subside on macaroni and cheese, fudge and cookies, I give you Eating Well’s Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash. This one is for to my beloved and far-too-distant friend Jamie, who is pregnant and craving comfort food. The best part is that this definitely falls into that category while still being low-fat and nutritious! The squash is packed full of folic acid for the baby and filled with sweet and slightly-spicy goodness for the mommy-to-be.

I used my marvelous new Escali food scale (a Christmas gift from my kind brother, Ethan) when making this to keep with the nutritionals provided by the magazine. Five ounces of turkey sausage turns out to only be about a link and a half of the Jennie-O variety — much less than I expected. It looked pretty meager in the pan, but after adding the beans, onions and tomatoes, it was plenty. Just enough in every bite for a really satisfying flavor.

The recipe calls for Swiss cheese, but since it's the one cheese I dislike (vehemently) and it seems very un-Southwestern to me, I substituted pepper jack. I also made the entire amount of filling, but only one squash for the two of us — a half each. I was planning to freeze the leftovers to use at a later date, but we liked this so much, we decided to have it again the next night.

Since the squash takes 45 minutes to bake, I asked Morgan to get it started while I was at the gym. He thought it was going to be an involved process and started whining about having to add the brown sugar and spices before putting it in the oven. The surprise in his voice was pretty amusing when I told him that acorn squash was naturally sweet, and that I didn’t put anything on it. And for that alone, because I married someone with a sweet tooth the size of Mount Rushmore, this one definitely makes the weekly rotation!

Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash
3 acorn squash (3/4-1 pound each)
5 ounces bulk turkey sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several dashes hot red pepper sauce, to taste
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I use pepper jack)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Cut squash in half horizontally. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add turkey sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, beans, salt and hot sauce, scraping up any browned bits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down, 10 to 12 minutes.

4. When the squash are tender, reduce oven temperature to 325°. Fill the squash halves with the turkey mixture. Top with cheese. Place on the baking sheet and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

Nutrition Information: Per serving (one half squash): 259 calories; 7 g fat (4 g sat, 1 g mono); 29 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 15 g protein; 7 g fiber; 482 mg sodium; 884 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (80% daily value), Vitamin A (45% dv), Calcium (20% dv), Iron (15% dv).

Monday, January 5, 2009

A cure-all salad

Happy 2009! I hope you all had some time to yourselves over the holidays, filled with family, friends and good food. If you're like me, you maybe enjoyed a little bit too much good food. And perhaps you feel a tad exhausted; in recovery from the commotion instead of energized for the new year. I've discovered a little bit of a remedy, though. (Yes, I admit "discovered" may be kind of an exaggerated claim ...)

Anyway, here's what you do: buy a bounty of veggies and make yourself a big, yummy salad. Now, I’m a huge comfort food fan, but fresh vegetables somehow have a way of melting the frost that settles onto your bones during winter and providing a nice pick-me-up. They have a way of telling your body that somewhere in the world, there is sun, there is photosynthesis happening, and that there is hope for spring.

So break out the avocados and tomatoes and lighten up! It's going to be a great year, I can already feel the ice melting ...